Health & Wellness

How the Outdoors is Putting a lot More Wellness in Your Wilderness

Photo: Ryan Nelson @campcomedia

My one-person tent is perfectly aligned below the granite gneiss mountains of the Northern Wasatch. The peaks give off a flash of white from a heavy winter’s snowpack as I wake early for our outdoor yoga class. The warm June morning burns off the dew still lingering on the grassy field as we lay out our mats. I’m hypnotized by bright greens dotted with blooming wildflowers, a multi-colored mosaic of tents, groups tightening their laces before a morning hike and my fellow yogis at various stages of alertness. Our instructor gently leads us into a cat-cow flow, and I melt into nature’s medicine surrounding me.

Cultures from the Amazon to the South Pacific have taken advantage of nature’s healing for centuries, like plant medicines, outdoor therapies, and living closely connected to the earth’s elements. Luckily these benefits are making their way into modern conversations. One’s where people are craving time in the outdoors and journeys of consciousness. It seems a few hundred other people agree with me, gathering for a weekend of outdoor and wellness adventures hosted by San Francisco based Outbound Collective.

Wilderness Wellness is a growing but simple concept. Taking everyday wellness routines into outdoor landscapes that offer us grace and depth while realigning our mind-body care. American’s spend $60 billion annually on fitness and weight loss, and another $16 billion on yoga’s complementary health approach. It’s no surprise more outdoor yoga, beach boot camps, mediation hikes, and mountaintop movement therapies are accessible. Nature’s medicine has done remarkable things.

Photo: Liz Galloway

Being part of nature

Later that day, I caught up with Kirsten Beverly Waters of Aiiro Wellness & Yoga, one of our expert guides for the weekend. “We believe that when you slow down, breathe, and listen to your body, you can see yourself as a part of something greater—part of nature.” Kirsten says. We’ve just finished a deep stretching routine of Hammock Yoga, a part of Kirsten’s Camp Asana series using affordable, simple tools you most likely already have in your camping supplies, like a hammock, straps and hiking poles. With a few tips, it’s possible to create an outdoor yoga studio anywhere, anytime.

Like me, Kirsten is an active outdoorist, often camping, and leading wilderness style retreats. “After countless hikes, runs, and adventures I noticed the limitations in their mobility.” She says about many friend and clients. “So, I started to use the gear we were trekking with as tools to restore, re-energize, and realign their bodies.” She’s even created a video series to practice with, downloadable on Vimeo. And with names like azimuth and switchback sequence, along with hammock strap extremities and tent flow she’s got you covered. This is only one of the many activities offered during this outdoor adventure camp that creates a pop-up base camp a few times a year for people like me, and others looking to explore the outdoors.

The pull of the outdoors for me gets stronger every year and for the past couple of years I’ve hosted tropical Wild Adventure Wellness retreats and led yoga and fitness classes as a compliment to adventure holidays in far flung places. Breathing through a Vinyasa flow with a backdrop of ancient glacial ice and humpback’s lunging off the stern of our small expedition boat are breathtaking moments that have left many, including myself, awe-struck. These are natures true champions and that’s not something I can reproduce in a studio. Each adventure heals me in new ways and leaves me with a bit more of nature’s residue to carry with me. It’s become a health prescription for both myself and those I teach.

Strengthening the connection between a healthy body, mind, and spirit is an anchoring element of the outdoor workout movement. Options like adventure camps, hammock yoga, and wilderness wellness retreats are definitely keeping it fresh. I left the weekend feeling euphoric and happily fatigued. I soaked it all in, tucking away a few introspective elements for my personal #fitspo later.

Nature and wellness are nothing new, but the growing conversation of access, knowledge, and intention are. Trainers, yogis and groups like Diversify Outdoors are leading these conversations with diversity pledges and wilderness wellness. These options are not accessible only to those with class privilege or elite training. They belong to all of us.

As summer begins to wind down, I invite you to relinquish the pull of hibernating in an autumn cocoon, instead seeking out wellness in nature’s playground. For now, I’ll continue to find stillness in my outdoor therapies, ones that beckon me to find my personal wellness, whether sharing it in a class, wandering ancient riverbeds, or taking in nature as a safari for the soul. There are still plenty of wild places to roam. With a mat on my back and sand in my toes, I’ll see you there.


Outbound Collective

Kirsten Waters Aiiro Wellness:

Camp Asana Video Series:

Diversity Pledge:

Wild Adventure Wilderness Wellness Retreats:

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